Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Election bites

There are always things that I want to comment on that don’t warrant a full blog post. Elections have such things in abundance. Here are a few.

Journos should go back to school

I know I harp on this a lot, but that’s because it annoys me so much: Journalists should not report on poll results unless they understand elementary statistics. Here’s an example from today: Tracy Watkins, reporting a new poll from Fairfax Media, opened her story with: “National has soared over the teapot tape saga and strengthened its grip on the election in the final days of the campaign.” Only trouble with that is that it’s utter bullshit.

National’s polling went up 1.5 percentage points, which is well within the margin of error. Put another way, National is still polling in the same range as it was in the last poll. National didn’t “strengthen its grip” and they certainly didn’t “soar”—in fact, it could be said that not only did they not go up, they may very well actually have gone down.

I’m not saying that Tracy Watkins deliberately misled readers in a way that would benefit National (because of the bandwagon effect, among or things)—even though that’s what she did. Instead, I’m saying that she doesn’t have even the most basic understanding of statistics and so isn’t qualified to report on opinion polls. She needs to go back to school, or at least start with Marcus Wilson’s post on poll statistics. Or, she could always cover garden tours or other less challenging topics.

Another debate: New Zealanders lost

TVNZ’s One News held their last leaders’ debate tonight. Smug Mr. Key showed up again. He looked irritated that he was even there. His answers were more slogan than anything else, but part of the blame for that lies with the open-ended questions that didn’t challenge either party leader.

The two most shocking bits were John Key being forced to admit that if re-elected, National would put a freeze on police recruiting—something they hadn’t planned on telling New Zealanders until after the election. John also expressed support for Supplementary Member voting system. As I said earlier today, it’s the system Tories think they could get (they won’t), so this wasn’t a surprise. But he outrageously claimed that SM would lead to more women and minorities!! How, exactly, would that even be possible in a system designed to stifle proportionate representation and so, diversity?

The losers were New Zealanders who had to endure the hapless and hopeless moderating of Guyon Espiner and frequent long commercial breaks (including the extended one for the Lotto draw!). We need a public service broadcaster, but we’ll never get that while National is in power.

Put out the Feelers

This is totally unimportant, but it’s something that baffles me. A segment of the active left seems to absolutely loathe The Feelers, the band whose song “Stand Up” National uses in their campaign ads, and the use of the song stiffens their dislike for the Tories. The thing is, I have no idea why people seem to hate the group so much. Okay, their song “Venus” is pretty vile (you’d be forgiven for thinking the refrain is “cum my little penis”), but most of their music is just bland and largely forgettable, so why the hatred?

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